hugs ‘n’ kisses,
TIME’s Michael Scherer illustrates the wide gap between what the Bush administration said it did with so-called “unlawful combatants” and what it did:
“We do not torture,” President Bush said, in November of 2005.
“This government does not torture people,” the president repeated, in October of 2007.
“On the question of so-called torture, we don’t do torture. We never have. It’s not something that this administration subscribes to,” added Vice President Dick Cheney, just last month.
As Spattackerman wryly quips, “One of the things I’ll miss the least about the Bush administration is being told not to believe my lying eyes and my common sense.” Indeed. Scherer contrasts these laughable statements with an excerpt from an article in today’s WaPo by longtime Village thought leader Bob Woodward:
The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”
“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.
then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was closely monitoring the interrogation, according to Army investigator Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt. Rumsfeld was “talking weekly” with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge at Guantanamo. “The secretary of defense is personally involved in the interrogation of one person [Qahtani], and the entire General Counsel system of all the departments of the military,” Schmidt said, in a statement that Benjamin and I obtained. Of Miller’s claim that he did not know all the grisly details of the Qahtani interrogation, Schmidt added, “There is just not a too-busy alibi there for that.”
Perhaps more of these twilight admissions and accusations of top-level culpability on the part of the Bush administration will counteract calls coming from within certain Serious circles for a mulligan on torture (scuttlebutt that may be having an impact on the President-elect). It’s up to us DFHs to stay shrill, because there’s already a concerted PR effort underway to scrub the Bush record and seize the narrative.
Digby, responding to the recent goalpost-shifting attempt by Stuart Taylor and Evan Thomas to frame conventional wisdom on “intense interrogation”, outlines what we–and the President-elect–are facing:
We are now engaged in a battle to persuade Obama that he must unequivocally and publicly disavow what those two jaded, decadent sadists just suggested was necessary lest he risk Americans being killed. Good luck to us on that. Considering Obama’s propensity for consensus, I would guess that he will find some way to appease them. (Maybe he’ll vow to make sure that the torturers don’t enjoy it, as a sop to the liberal freaks.)
But I would suggest that Obama contemplate one little thing before he decides to try to find “middle ground” on torture. It is a trap. If he continues to torture in any way or even tacitly agrees to allow it in certain circumstances, the intelligence community will make sure it is leaked. They want protection from both parties and there is no better way to do it than to implicate Obama. And the result of that will be to destroy his foreign policy.
Bottom line: closing Guantanamo, while a welcome and very necessary gesture on the part of the incoming administration, is not enough. The rule of law, bent to the point of unrecognizability during the Bush era, can only be reaffirmed if those responsible for deliberately undermining and circumventing it are held fully accountable for their actions and Obama, firmly and without equivocation, denounces and rejects what the previous administration to the day claims was necessary to protect the nation.
The more things Change™, the more they stay the same:
Officials ordered nine Muslim passengers, including three young children, off an AirTran flight headed to Orlando from Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon after two other passengers overheard what they thought was a suspicious remark.
Members of the party, all but one of them U.S.-born citizens who were headed to a religious retreat in Florida, were subsequently cleared for travel by FBI agents who characterized the incident as a misunderstanding, an airport official said. But the passengers said AirTran refused to rebook them, and they had to pay for seats on another carrier secured with help from the FBI.
According to Kashif Irfan, one of the passengers removed from the flight, “five of the six adults in the party are of South Asian descent, and all six are traditionally Muslim in appearance, with the men wearing beards and the women in headscarves.”
Entirely coincidental, I’m sure.
Even so, AirTran went into full spin mode following the incident:
AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson agreed that the incident amounted to a misunderstanding. But he defended AirTran’s handling of the incident, which he said strictly followed federal rules. And he denied any wrongdoing on the airline’s part.
“At the end of the day, people got on and made comments they shouldn’t have made on the airplane, and other people heard them,” Hutcheson said. “Other people heard them, misconstrued them. It just so happened these people were of Muslim faith and appearance. It escalated, it got out of hand and everyone took precautions.”
Yes, it “just so happened” that the people kicked off the plane for making “comments they shouldn’t have made” were scary brown people wearing scary Muslim clothing.
If you buy that load of frozen high-altitude airplane waste , well, I also have some prime TWA stock available for purchase at a fabulous price.
Vanessa @ Feministing isn’t buying:
The fact of the matter is that if “these people” weren’t of Muslim faith and appearance, this wouldn’t have happened.
Gee, ya think?!
Oh, and what were these comments that were so inappropriate that the plane just had to be evacuated and the FBI called in?
“The conversation, as we were walking through the plane trying to find our seats, was just about where the safest place in an airplane is,” [Inayet] Sahin said. “We were (discussing whether it was safest to sit near) the wing, or the engine or the back or the front, but that’s it. We didn’t say anything else that would raise any suspicion.”
The conversation did not contain the words “bomb,” “explosion,” “terror” or other words that might have aroused suspicion, [Atif ] Irfan said.
“When we were talking, when we turned around, I noticed a couple of girls kind of snapped their heads,” said Sobia Ijaz, Irfan’s wife. “I kind of thought to myself, ‘Oh, you know, maybe they’re going to say something.‘ It didn’t occur to me that they were going to make it such a big issue.”
Hah–never underestimate the potential overblown idiocy of jittery airline passengers in a full-on post-9/11 ethnic panic state (“ZOMG TERRORISTS IZ GUNNA BLOW UP THE PLANE–LET’S ROLL!!!!1″) Still, I’m rather astounded at how remarkably sanguine the family is about the entire farcical (if infuriating) situation. Can’t say I’d be so reserved if I somehow found myself sitting across from the FBI, all because I dared to inappropriately express completely understandable concerns over flight safety (while being brown, scary and clad in funny-looking religious garb).
But don’t think a lack of righteous outrage means the family is rolling over:
“Really, at the end of the day, we’re not out here looking for money. I’m an attorney. I know how the court system works. We’re basically looking for someone to say… ‘We’re apologizing for treating you as second-class citizens.'”
“We are proud Americans,” Sahin said. “You know we decided to have our children and raise them here. We can very easily go anywhere we want in the world, but you know we love it here and we’re not going to go away, no matter what.”
Aziz said there is a “very strong possibility” he will pursue a civil rights lawsuit.
“I guess it’s just a situation of guilt by association,” Aziz said. “They see one Muslim talking to another Muslim and they automatically assume something wrong is going on.”
Libby Spencer lays out the bottom line:
If we allow ourselves to diminish our humanity and toss our common sense out of fear of terrorism, then [the terrorists have] won without lifting a finger.
Republican vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin is offering her first televised interview to ABC News in the coming week in Alaska.
A McCain-Palin adviser says an interview was offered to ABC’s Charlie Gibson several days ago and that they expect it to happen in the latter part of the week in Alaska.
$10 bucks sez the Gibson interview takes place on September 11th, complete with all the hagiographic fixins.
Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald reports from beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay:
In a stunning rebuke, a six-member U.S. military jury Thursday ignored a Pentagon prosecutor’s plea for a 30 years-plus term and ordered Osama bin Laden’s driver to 66 months in prison.
With credit for time served given by the judge, that means Salim Hamdan, 40, of Yemen will be sent back to the general detainee population of Camp Delta by January, and eligible to return home.
In court, Hamdan’s longest-serving defense attorney, retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift, clasped the more diminutive Yemeni in a bearhug and both men openly wept.
Afterwards, Swift vowed that lawyers would work to send Hamdan home to his wife and two daughters by January. Lawyers were prepared to go straight to federal court with a habeas corpus petition, he said, were the U.S. to seek to continue to hold the driver after the sentence were done.
”What happened — despite the system — is justice,” said Swift.
After the jury’s verdict, the judge turned to the convicted terrorist and said:
“I wish you godspeed, Mr. Hamdan. I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and your daughters and your country.”
”God willing,” the man in traditional Yemeni robe and head scarf replied in Arabic, interrupting.
The judge continued: “And I hope that you are able to be a father, and a provider, and a husband in the best sense of the word.”
Then the detainee said it again: “Inshallah.”
Allred replied in Arabic. “Inshallah.”
Touching. I’m sure the LGF set is already calling for the head of ‘Judge Dhimmi.’ But, despite the Spielberg-esque conclusion to the first U.S. military tribunal since WWII, happy endings aren’t necessarily in the script, as noted by the Washington Post:
It is unclear what will happen to Hamdan after he finishes serving his remaining time, because military prosecutors and military commissions officials have argued they have the ability to hold enemy combatants indefinitely, until the end of hostilities in the so-called war on terror.
Warren Richey of the CS Monitor quotes Linda Malone, director of the Human Rights and National Security Law Program at William and Mary Law School:
“The overriding problem is that the Bush administration has said that [Hamdan] will be held until the war on terror is over, regardless of what sentence he gets,” Professor Malone says. “It is almost Kafkaesque that regardless of what the sentence might be and whatever credit he is given [for his prior detention], they are saying they are going to hold him until the war ends – and everyone knows that is virtually limitless.“
I truly hope any future habeas corpus petition proves successful. But to call this outcome “justice”? With all due respect, Lt. Cmdr. Swift, that word doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
Updated: Next on the ‘worst of the worst’ list: Bin Laden’s personal stylist *cough*.
Bestselling Author Salman Rushdie discusses what he feels is a lack of great literature or other creative works about September 11, 2001.
(video: The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis, by Bill Moyers [86 minutes])
More than anything else, the presidential election ongoing is — or, as a right, ought to be — about ending an era of complicity. There is no point anymore in blaming George Bush or the men he hired or the party he represented or the conservative movement that energized that party for what has happened to this country in the past seven years. They were all merely the vehicles through whom the fear and the lassitude and the neglect and the dry rot that had been afflicting the democratic structures for decades came to a dramatic and disastrous crescendo. The Bill of Rights had been rendered a nullity by degrees long before a passel of apparatchik hired lawyers found in its text enough gray space to allow a fecklessly incompetent president to command that torture be carried out in the country’s name. The war powers of the Congress had been deeded wholesale to the executive long before Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz and a passel of think-tank cowboys found within them the right of a fecklessly incompetent president to make war unilaterally on anyone, anywhere, forever. The war in Iraq is the powerful bastard child of the Iran-Contra scandal, which went unpunished.
The ownership of the people over their politics — and, therefore, over their government — had been placed in quitclaim long before the towers fell, and the president told the people to be just afraid enough to let him take them to war and just afraid enough to reelect him, but not to be so afraid that they stayed out of the malls.
It had been happening, bit by bit, over nearly forty years. Ronald Reagan sold the idea that “government” was something alien. The notion of a political commonwealth fell into a desuetude so profound that even Bill Clinton said, “The era of Big Government is over” and was cheered across the political spectrum, so that when an American city drowned and the president didn’t care enough to leave a birthday party, and the disgraced former luxury-horse executive who’d been placed in charge of disaster relief behaved pretty much the way a disgraced former luxury-horse executive could be expected to behave in that situation, it could not have come as any kind of surprise to anyone honest enough to have watched the country steadily abandon self-government over the previous four decades. The catastrophe that is the administration of George W. Bush is not unprecedented. It was merely inevitable. The people of the United States have been accessorial in the murder of their country
Enough of this bullshit and enough of keeping the eye off the prize. Worrying about the election is shit at the moment; it will happen regardless, and even if a Democrat wins, we’re going to have to worry about restoring credibility in government. This utter bullshit about democracy and freedom in the middle east has got to fucking stop until we address the sheer blasphemy that was done in the name of our supposedly moral country.
Keep screaming it until their damn ears bleed: Bush and his cabinet approved torture.
– Space Cowboy, Scream It from the Highest Mountain: “DO SOMETHING!“
WHY WE FIGHT, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. It is an unflinching look at the anatomy of the American war machine, weaving unforgettable personal stories with commentary by a [who’s] who of military and beltway insiders. Featuring John McCain, William Kristol, Chalmers Johnson, Gore Vidal, Richard Perle and others, WHY WE FIGHT launches a bipartisan inquiry into the workings of the military industrial complex and the rise of the American Empire. Inspired by Dwight [Eisenhower’s] legendary farewell speech (in which he coined the phrase military industrial complex), filmmaker [Eugene] Jarecki (THE TRIALS OF HENRY KISSINGER) surveys the scorched landscape of a half-[century’s] military adventures, asking how and telling why a nation of, by, and for the people has become the savings-and-loan of a system whose survival depends on a state of constant war. The film moves beyond the headlines of various American military operations to the deeper questions of why…does America fight? What are the forces political, economic, ideological that drive us to fight against an ever-changing enemy? Frank Capra made a series of films during World War II called WHY WE FIGHT that explored Americas reasons for entering the war, Jarecki notes. Today, with our troops engaged in Iraq and elsewhere for reasons far less clear, I think its crucial to ask the questions: Why are we doing what we are doing? What is it doing to others? And what is it doing to us?